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Football greats to attend Yountville Super Bowl party
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Football greats to attend Yountville Super Bowl party

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When Super Bowl 50 kicks off Feb. 7, one viewing party Upvalley will have a much more compelling draw than nachos, pizza or turducken.

Six members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame are scheduled to be guests of honor at the Big Game Tailgate and Watch Party, which the Yountville Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring at the Community Center. Among the gridiron luminaries joining football fans during the NFL’s championship in Santa Clara will be two Bay Area stars of the 1960s and 1970s – Dave Wilcox, a San Francisco 49ers linebacker for 11 years, and former cornerback Willie Brown, an Oakland Raider for 12 of his 16 pro seasons.

Wilcox, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who played from 1964 to 1974, also will be one of seven former athletes booked for a special Napa Valley Wine Train tour the Wednesday before the Super Bowl. The Big Game Train, set for Feb. 3, will let passengers mingle with Calistoga native and former NFL coach Dick Vermeil, Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants pitcher Vida Blue, and other guests.

A portion of the Watch Party proceeds will benefit the Yountville-based Tug McGraw Foundation’s research programs for understanding traumatic brain injuries, according to Karen McKenzie, an event spokeswoman.

The Big Game Train is a fundraiser for the HOF Players Foundation, which assists retired NFL players in need of assistance, according to spokeswoman Brittany Welby Graham.

Lending a hand to fellow gridiron greats – most of whom earned the much smaller salaries of decades past – has become a late-life mission for the 73-year-old Wilcox, who joined the Players Foundation more than a decade ago and serves as a board member.

“There’s people out there, some of whom I personally know, who need help — but sometimes it’s hard for them to ask for it,” he said last week by telephone from his home in Junction City, Oregon. “(We try) to help the guys, whether it’s rent or medical issues where they need to see a specialist or get medical attention, just to make their quality of life a little better.”

Though the NFL announces Super Bowl venues several years in advance – Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers’ home field, was awarded the game in May 2013 – the game-day viewing party in Yountville began coming together about two months ago, when some former players expressed interest in spending the game weekend in the Napa Valley rather than at Levi’s Stadium, said Cindy Saucerman, president and CEO of the Yountville chamber.

“We’re just hopping on their coattails and trying to get a little recognition,” she said. “Coming to the Napa Valley to experience the beauty, serenity and enjoy the wine and food is, in my opinion, a no-brainer. It’s a good alternative to the craziness that will be happening down on the Peninsula.”

“Everybody has Super Bowl parties, and while we can’t use certain terms, we can certainly celebrate with the people who were instrumental in developing the game,” said Saucerman of the Watch Party, which will not carry a league endorsement. “Those guys are legends and we’re excited to have them.”

The remaining Hall of Famers slated for the Yountville event are offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz, defensive end Jack Youngblood, defensive end Chris Doleman and guard Joe DeLamielleure.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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